Friday night saw my last proper race of this training cycle- the China Grove 5k Main Street Challenge. Following the King Tiger race on the Saturday I took it relatively easy last week, hoping that all the hard work I had put in the past couple of months would finally come to fruition on Friday night.
Being a night race my usual pre race preparations had to be adjusted. I took the afternoon off work and managed to grab a nap during the France Uruguay match (not difficult!). At 5pm I grabbed my usual pre race breakfast and headed to Jay Holder’s house. He was kindly driving Jordan Kinley and I up to China Grove. We arrived in plenty of time and grabbed our numbers and better than usual goodie bags (technical tee included). The first good omen of the night came as I was immediately informed that I had won a door prize. I headed over to the prize table in eager anticipation- it was a cotton t shirt with the logo of a local running store on it…oh well!
We had heard that the course was straight out and back and flat and during our warm up this was confirmed, as Jay, Jordan and I jogged the whole course. There were a few undulations but other than having to do a complete turn at the halfway mark the course looked pretty fast! Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was still in the high 80s as it got dark and the humidity again left us all drenched on the start line. After a quick prayer we were off and immediately the race began to take shape. Jordan shot off into the lead in a group of three alongside fellow Charlotte resident Chris Lamperski and last year’s winner Ryan Woods. Jay followed closely behind them and I settled down in 5th place. The guys in front all appeared to be running sub 5 minute pace and I didn’t want any of that.
I came through the mile in 5:08 which I would have been happy with at the start of the race but it was already feeling a lot harder than I would have liked. Still this was the last race I would be doing for a while and I was going to make sure I left everything out there so I decided I should pull up to Jay and we could hopefully work together. For the next half mile Jay and I ran side by side. After a very tentative turn around at the half way mark we noticed we were catching Chris pretty fast, while Jordan and Ryan were duking it out somewhere up ahead in the darkness. As we pulled up to Chris he got back on the gas and hung in with us. He had clearly made the sensible decision to leave Ryan and Jordan to it and race us instead. Through the 2 mile in 10:17 and I was now starting to hurt. Chris and Jay were starting to pull away and try as I might I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. There followed possibly the hardest mile I have run all year. I was trying to put the foot on the gas but there was nothing there. I found myself looking at my watch almost every 30 seconds, just willing the race to be over. Up ahead Jordan put a late move on Ryan to take the race in a very impressive 15:05 and Chris outkicked Jay (16:07) for 3rd place. My third mile had gone out to 5:26 and I finished in 16:20, well short of my pre race expectation, the only saving grace being that I knew I had left everything out on the course.
My immediate post race disappointment was partially abated by the magnificent spread of fruit, cookies and pizza that greeted us and also by the company of so many other Charlotte runners who had come up for the event. We hung around for our awards and headed back to Charlotte. It was 1 am when I eventually got to bed and 6 hours later I was back out at it for a recovery run (with Jay!). After that it was time to kick back and get ready for the England USA game!